The VAF’s second Podcast

Listen to our second podcast as I interview Matt Mack, a combat veteran from the early days of Iraq.  He was blown up by a suicide bomber in a car and lived to tell the tale.  Hear what it’s like to survive and recover from a bombing.

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The stigma needs to be removed…

Veterans, Cops, and other people in stressful jobs find it hard to admit they’re having problems.  The main reason is dealing with the Stigma that comes with admitting mental illness.

I was an infantryman for 4 years with the Stryker Brigade in Alaska.  Infantry is full of alpha males and people who want to be perceived as mentally and physically tough.  I was guilty of heaping some scorn on a fellow soldier for coming to terms with his issues.  I thought I was tougher and less likely to suffer PTSD or other mental health issues.

It wasn’t because I was tougher, I’d say.  I was just calmer and rational about violence and stress.  That was just in the moment, however.  I tended to become emotional and angry after.  I’ve been in fistfights, bar fights, and altercations since Iraq.  I’ve also been recalled in the military after being out for 2 years.

What changed my life for the better was realizing the problems I was having and becoming proactive.  I’d accidentally fell into the vet center through a friend.  It took years of work and medication to calm me down and put me on the right path.  The Vet Center helped me form this nonprofit and set goals.  The VAF’s where I want to work and create for the rest of my life.

There are a number of resources for veterans.  I’ll highlight the Vet Center today and more later.   Active duty military have a hard time finding them or getting involved.  I was lucky, but the word needs to be spread.  Here’s a video and a link to the Vet Center homepage.  They’re confidential.  While under the VA, they’re not required to share information.

http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/

Three Vets

Benny Alicea, Mike Hawley, and Pat Montes (left to right)

Benny Alicea, Mike Hawley, and Pat Montes (left to right)

Pictured above is myself (Mike Hawley) and the two best friends I hold dearest.  All of us are combat vets to varying degrees.  20 pounds ago, I didn’t fit into my old uniform-hence the suit.

Pat Montes (staff sergeant) is pictured to the right.  This was taken on his wedding day.  We were walking out to take pictures with his family and future bride.  The wedding was held at the Saybrook Point Inn, in Old Saybrook, CT.  Pat’s a veteran of two combat tours – Iraq and Afghanistan.  I’ve known him for 17 years.  He’s soon becoming an officer in the CT National Guard.

I’m in the center.  I’m the co-founder of the company.  I wouldn’t have gotten this far had it not been for these two.  They helped me realize I had some issues that needed dealing with.

Benny (left) and I met in basic training.  He and I hit it off.  It turns out he was stationed mere feet away from Pat Montes in Baghdad.  He fought alongside the marines in Fallujah and eanred a silver star for bravery.  Along with this prestigious medal, he has at least two purple hearts and other valorious medals.

I wanted to get some visuals up on this blog.  It’s pretty bare right now.  Also, I wanted to insert some humanity into issues of war.  Benny and I are possibly developing some martial arts skills for professionals.  He is also looking for someone to help collarborate on his memoirs.  If there’s anyone who needs to write his experiences down, It’s Benny Alicea.  If anyone can help, please let me know.